Within the classroom as a visual arts educator, I aspire to invite excitement and creativity, while providing encouragement and a safe environment, through compassionate communication that fosters one’s authentic self to emerge. Each student holds a unique relationship to learning, and it is my role to discover and meet those needs.
I am guided and ignited in developing my lessons by listening to and observing student’s explorations and motivations. By witnessing the uniqueness in all people we can empower and encourage them to celebrate and value their unique selves. Thus activating their distinctive voice and expression of communication in their artwork. By opening opportunities of place-based and experiential learning, where all the senses are invoked, I hope to nourish curiosity that will cultivate student’s creativity, inspire investigation, deepen acquisition and discover a joy for learning.
I see art as an indispensable gateway of creativity that unlocks the keys to our imagination. When our imagination is nurtured by care and integrity and inspired by life, it is free to fully and authentically express itself; developing communication skills, critical thinking skills, confidence, and an enthusiasm for life. No matter what age I am working with, nurturing their unique sense of creativity and imagination, inspires great potential for balanced development on all levels.
An art program holds exciting opportunities that determine the commitment, enthusiasm, and preparedness of each student. Art and design students need a complex range of ability and knowledge in order to thrive as artists today. In working with all levels of students from various backgrounds, I have developed strategies that have proved successful in developing creative, mature, hard-working artists.
Students must emerge from their foundation classes with a strong base of technical skills, problem-solving skills, visual language, work ethic, and an awareness of contemporary issues. At the beginning, it is essential that the basic skills are emphasized, while also charging students to wrestle with more complex issues. In a variety of ways, including research projects, slide lectures, and gallery trips, I expose students to a range of artists, movements, and theories that shape the contemporary art world.
I believe art students today must excel in their critical thinking and verbal skills; consequently, I challenge them with reading, writing, and innovative methods of critiquing. First and second-year students, in particular, need to develop flexibility and the confidence to explore new and uncomfortable tasks. I introduce them to various media, ideas, and the professional skills they will need as they pursue their careers.
As students advance through the program, I place more emphasis on the development of the students’ ideas. Being sensitive to the individual needs within an upper-level class, my instruction varies from defined projects that approach conceptual development through set guidelines, to individually-directed projects that are critiqued in terms of successful problem-solving and goals.
When I give students more freedom, I give deadlines, assign written statements, and discuss with individuals students their progress and the artists they may find influential. I believe in a structured approach to teaching—clearly designed projects, handouts, exercises, lectures, and demonstrations. When both content and expectations are clearly communicated, I see students flourish. Having clear expectations also helps students take accountability for their work, ensuring a mutually respectful learning environment.
I find that, counter-intuitively, students are often most inventive when the parameters are limited. At the same time, developing artists need freedom and flexibility. Frequently, I tell students, “You can break the rules, but make it work.” Accordingly, my focus is on helping the student discover which solution is most effective, relative to the needs of the piece. When I help the students learn to articulate ideas in terms of effectiveness rather than correctness, I find they develop into mature artists.
Emphasizing that the process is often more important than the product, I give students the permission to experiment and to make mistakes. I encourage students to take risks and assure them that mistakes made through exploration are more valuable than perfection created through safe familiarity. With a consistent emphasis on work ethic, problem-solving skills, and technical skills, students have the preparation to enter the art world as mature artists.